By: Jim Shaffer, Jim Shaffer Group
Many organizations could improve results if their external and internal communication worked together to improve the customer experience. For this to work, internal communication would need to broaden its role. Some are doing that.
I recently addressed a conference of business communication professionals on the role of a trusted advisor, a term used by David Maister in his superb book by that name. From my perspective of 30-plus years working with business leaders, improved business results is first on my list of “what clients look for” in a trusted advisor. That’s sine qua non because if a so-called trusted advisor doesn’t improve the business, he or she probably doesn’t add value.
Marketing communication, brand communication and advertising have historically focused on building brand equity among customers and prospects through brand positioning–what the brand stands for in the minds of customers and prospects relative to its competition. Today, they’re working diligently within a technological maze to identify tighter causal relationships between their work and its impact on sales and profitability.
Meanwhile, internal communication has long played what amounts to a journalistic role that distributes news and information to employees using formal communication such as newsletters, email, videos, town hall meetings, blogs and wall posters. What was done 20 years ago and what is done today remains the same, except it’s been digitized.
I told the internal communication people in the audience that they have a huge opportunity to make a profound impact on business results, IF they focus on improving the customer experience as promised by the brand people.
I used three examples: Geico promises that 15 minutes or less can save you 15 percent on car insurance. BMW promises the ultimate driving machine. FedEx promises your package will get there overnight. Guaranteed.
These are worthy brand promises, brought to us by the marketing and advertising people at these three companies. But behind the external communication people in these companies are 470,000 employees whose work in one way or another helps to deliver on the promises.
These same 470,000 people are bombarded by thousands of signs, signals, cues and messages daily. They need to sort through the onslaught of messages, make decisions and act in a way that delivers at least part of the promise–every time.
This means leaders at all levels of these organizations need to consistently communicate the business context, vision and strategy, as well as the brand strategy. The mixed messages, slow moving, inaccurate, or non-existent information must be at an absolute minimum, if not altogether gone.
Measurement, reward, recognition, learning and development systems and work processes also need to be perfectly aligned with what leaders are saying and the action they’re taking. The walk and the talk must match.
Whether there are five or 470,000 people in our organization, everything we do—all of our actions– flow naturally and directly from how well communication has been managed. The customer feels it and reacts by buying our products and services, or someone else’s.
To make this happen, internal communication must connect the workplace to the marketplace.